John Marshall was a British drummer. He played with Allan on "Bundles" and "Land Of Cockayne" by Soft Machine, as well as on Soft Machine's live albums featuring Allan. They also played together in Soft Works, releasing the album "Abracadabra".
See also John Marshall on Allan Holdsworth.
His next big step was when drummer John Marshall got him his first major gig, with Soft Machine: "It was all down to playing; if I hadn't just kept playing I wouldn't have got half the gigs I did. Derek Wadsworth, the trombone player, told John Hiseman about me and that got me the gig with Tempest. Another time I had to sit in for Chuck Mangione at Ronnie Scott's - Chuck was ill; it was after I'd come back from my first stint in America - and Alphonso Johnson was on bass. Alphonse new [sic] that Tony Williams was looking for a guitarist for his band Lifetime, and because of that stand-in session he put my name forward and Tony asked if I'd like to go back to the States and join his band." Allan moved to California in the early eighties and has remained a resident since.
The only member of the band with who he was familiar before he joined was John Marshall, because he'd played with him on various jazz gigs, though Allan is more of a rocker really. Or, to be more accurate, he is one of a new generation of musical stylists who are influenced by the whole extent of the scene today, rather than any one aspect of it.
MP: And in 1975 you got with Soft Machine – that was a band which used a lot of different time signatures – was it a learning process for you?
AH: Yeah, yeah, I really enjoyed working with that band, they're all great musicians and like the drummer in the band at the time, John Marshall, I played with him in different people, I used to work with a piano player, an English piano player, a jazz piano player, he's really a wonderful musician, his name is Pat Smythe, he died a few years ago but he used to have John play in his band, and so I met John through that, and John told the band Soft Machine and then they invited me out to do some guest shows with that band and then after we'd done those they asked me if I'd like to join the band, so I said, yeah, yeah, it was great. I really enjoyed working with them.
So to Soft Machine and Gong. Given Allan Holdsworth's links with Nucleus, with the musicians in Sunship, and later with Bruford, I long ago came to the conclusion that here was a musician very much aware of the dynasty of bands and musicians which can be traced right back to the mid-Sixties with the Wilde Flowers. Surely it wasn't a coincidence that Allan Holdsworth first played in the Soft Machine and then Gong. And yet: "In both cases I had no prior knowledge of the bands. In Gong I knew nothing about Daevid Allen or anything else that had gone before. I don't mean that in a bad way - I'd never heard it. Same with Soft Machine - I hadn't heard what had happened before, which may be a good thing, because then you're not trying to keep something alive. But there was a guy who was also a huge help to me starting out called Brian Blain, who works for the Musicians Union. He was absolutely wonderful - he helped me a lot. I think he really liked me and tried to put me in different situations. I remember we did some clinics - that's how I met John Marshall. I guess John told the rest of the band about me, and then Brian Blain hooked up a couple of clinics with the Soft Machine, but they added a guitar player because at that time they didn't have a guitar player.
"So they said then OK, this is what this tune is and then I'd play on a couple of the things. Then they asked me to do a couple of gigs with them as a guest, so I did that. And then after that they asked me join the band. I really had a lot of fun with that band - they were good times. They were all great guys - Kari Jenkins, Mike Ratledge, Roy Babbington, John Marshall. It was really good fun".
I played a lot with Allan not only when he was in Soft Machine, but also in various jazz contexts with his own groups and those of pianists Pat Smythe and Gordon Beck, and more recently with Softworks. To say that he is an original one-off is, of course, stating the obvious—but his approach is so individual that it demands an equally special type of playing with him. His lines arch seamlessly over everything and don't obviously invite you in, and it can seem that the rhythmic dovetailing and interaction that you get with some other musicians isn't on the cards. (I read an interview with Tony Williams later where he said that whatever he played, it didn't make a dent in Allan's playing). He is, however, of course listening and very aware of you, but it's expressed in his own way. My reaction is to adopt a parallel but related way of playing, and I've always found it an absolute joy. I know he often seems to feel uncomfortable in other people's groups and would like to be judged on his playing in his own bands but in the case of the recordings with Soft Machine (in particular “Bundles” and “Hazard Profile” on the Bundles album and “Madame Vintage” on the SoftWorks album) his playing is astounding. The only problem with Allan is that he can be so self-critical that it becomes destructive. His perfectionism has him reject quite wonderful takes—especially live ones—out of hand. There's a lot of great music on the cutting floor; but that's Allan. —John Marshall
RF: Who was the first notable drummer with whom you worked?
AH: There were actually two drummers I played with in London who were really influential to me as a musician. One was Jon Hiseman, with whom I played in Tempest in the early '70s. Jon was an absolutely brilliant drummer, especially at that time. He didn't sound like anybody I had ever heard. When I go back to listen to that album, everything sounds good to me except the guitar. The vocals are amazing and the drums are great. That was my first experience of working with someone of that caliber. I came from playing in a Top-40 band with local guys. Then to get a chance to play with somebody like that! The other thing that knocked me out about Jon's playing was that his power just grabbed hold of you. When you played with him, it was like he put his hands on your shoulders and just held you. It was a pretty amazing experience for a guy just arriving in London.
Right after that, Jon wanted the band to stay like a Cream kind of thing, while I felt that the band had a lot more potential, so we split. That's when I joined Soft Machine. John Marshall was the drummer. He was the jazz guy in London around that time. That was a great experience for me. When I look back on my past, I think playing in that band was some of the most fun I ever had in my life. They were great guys and great musicians. I was learning all the time.